Literacy Is the First Goal of Education

Article excerpt

Byline: TEAM SPRINGFIELD By Paul Weill For The Register-Guard

Nov. 11-17 is American Education Week. This year's theme, "Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility," provides us all with an opportunity to reflect on what we believe should be the essential outcomes of a K-12 education.

Although there are many desirable outcomes, I believe that literacy (reading and writing) is the single most important result of a K-12 education. Literacy is the gateway skill for success in school, career and life.

Students who leave our schools unable to read and write proficiently face great challenges and limited prospects for living and working in the 21st century. These students, however, have not failed. Research evidence and instructional practice clearly demonstrate that all students can learn to read and write. The failure stems from our educational system's inability to provide instructional programs that guarantee these students their educational right to literacy.

In other words, we have the tools and knowledge at our disposal to be able to successfully teach all our students, but we have to be willing to acknowledge that we need to do a better job of using those tools. That is why I am proud of our district's efforts in the area of literacy.

We have candidly looked at our literacy data, which reveals that we are not meeting the needs of all our students. We've spent a lot of time discussing our responsibilities for ensuring that each and every student attains literacy. We also have been doing research, brainstorming strategies for improving literacy districtwide, and putting in place a variety of new literacy programs.

You already can see the evidence of these efforts in improved test scores and increased circulation in our school libraries, but you don't have to just look at the numbers; it's written on the students' faces as they talk about books. More of them now understand and talk about the importance of literacy. They are also enjoying its rewards.

As part of our effort to improve literacy, the district now has literacy support specialists who spend time working with teachers and students to develop customized strategies for each school. …